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spike bullet October 2003 - Managing Your Software Records

Managing Your Software Records
Resources (links, books, articles, humor)

color bulletManaging Your Software Records

If you work in a large corporation, someone is keeping track of all the software you use.  They make sure that appropriate licenses are obtained for the people using the software and the renewal dates when needed.

For those of us who have small businesses or use a computer at home, keeping track of software is becoming much more complex than it was in the "early days" when all we needed were a couple of programs to do everything we might need.  

This month, we provide tips for keeping good software records for yourself at home or for your small business.  The next time your computer crashes or you upgrade to a new computer, good records will prove to be very valuable. 

Software licenses

Most software today requires that you purchase a software license and/ or register the software with the manufacturer.  You will want to keep good records of the serial numbers and registration information of your software.  

This is an excellent way to use your database software.  If you don't have a database program, you can use a spreadsheet program or your word processing software.  Be sure to print out your records and keep them in a safe place.

If you prefer, you can keep records by hand on paper.  We have included a fill-in-the-blanks form in the resources section that you can use to keep software license records.  Even if you keep your records on your computer, you might want to use the filled in form as your backup.  

Why keep software records?

Software license information becomes critical when you reinstall software, upgrade to a newer version or upgrade to a new computer system.  If you have 20 or 30 programs, it may be difficult if not impossible to contact all the software vendors to verify that you really do have the right to use the software.  

If you keep good records and lose the original software CD or your computer crashes, contacting one or two vendors might be feasible for you.  They will want to know when you purchased the software and your license number as proof of ownership.

Buy legal software

Do not fall into the trap of "borrowing" software from a well-meaning friend.  This is a crime and could cost you far more problems and money in the long run than purchasing your own license.

Software may be purchased at retail stores, ordered from Internet vendors or downloaded from a vendor�s website.  To purchase software via the Internet, you will need to provide your credit card number.  Be sure to check the privacy and security policies of the vendor before giving out your credit card number.

We strongly recommend that you use a credit card service that allows you to provide a one-use only number rather than your full credit card number for better security protection.  Check with your bank or credit card company for this option.

If you have a dial-up modem, downloading major software may not be feasible due to the size of the software and speed of the modem.  If you have DSL or a cable modem, you may find the download method preferable.  

Be sure you know what you are buying, what warranties and protections are offered, whether you can get a refund and how much support is offered for the software. 

Registering software

Today, major software is registered via the Internet.  If you purchase software in a retail store, you can usually also register via a mail-in form or via an 800-number to the vendor.

When you purchase software from the Internet, be sure to save the registration information including any serial number and/or unlock codes provided.  You will need these when you install the software and if you upgrade your computer at a later date.

It is wise to print out that information and keep it in a file with your other software records. 

Keeping software records

We suggest you keep the following minimum information about any software you purchase or upgrade:

  • Date of purchase
  • Place or method of purchase
  • Date of installation
  • Software vendor, software name and version
  • Vendor�s name, website and technical support contact (phone number or e-mail)
  • Serial number (if any)
  • Unlock code (if any)
  • Other codes required to install (if any)
  • The name and company name you registered as the purchaser of the software
  • The e-mail address you registered with the purchase
  • Any warranty information and return policy
  • Length of the license or renewal date.

Keep the same information for any upgrades you purchase later.  Software vendors regularly issue upgrades, new features and fixes to their software.  If you provide an e-mail address when you register, many vendors will let you know when new features or upgrades are available.

Downloading vs. buying retail

Many types of software are now available via download from the Internet.  In fact, some software is offered only by download.  Other major software is packaged for distribution in retail stores.

Retail packages contain software on a CD and some printed instruction manuals.  Most software companies in recent years have greatly reduced the size of instruction manuals, expecting customers to either learn by themselves via the Help menus or take a class.

If you download software from the Internet, be sure to create a backup CD for yourself (if possible) and keep in a safe place.  

Also, make sure you save all license information, including purchase price, serial number, unlock code or other critical information needed to install or upgrade the software.  <See the downloadable form.>

If your budget is extremely tight for software, you might choose to use very low cost or free software  You might find an older version of software that fits your needs at a very low price.

There are many good software products available.  Visit the online warehouse stores for ideas, comparisons and customer reviews.

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